LOS ANGELES, February 17--At 10:00 a.m. in a jammed Los Angeles City Council
chambers, two dozen South Central Farmers and a hundred farm supporters in
bright green shirts crowded in the back three rows and behind the pews.
Small green ribbons and green armbands decorated supporters throughout the
audience. The farmers waited with years-long-learned patience through
interminable retirement tributes, recognition of Filipino war veterans, and the
beginning of a resolution for the residents of Lincoln Place. Their
supporters were somewhat more restless.
In front of City Hall, another thirty farm supporters stretched banners along
the bulwarks and marched along the sidewalks with cardboard fruits and
vegetables, and signs demanding the land be returned to the farmers.
But it was undoubtedly the implacable demeanor of the farmers themselves
that prompted council president Garcetti to urge a speedy start for their
For months, a small contingent of farmers has come weekly from tilling, planting, and harvesting the earth to the architectural grandeur of the John Ferraro Council Chamber to
plead for their land. Unlike their prior presentations, today the City
Council sat up and took note.
The farmers worked City Hall like the pros they've become. At 11:30,
leaving a small group waiting to speak, a sea of green silently left the
chamber and swelled around the third floor corner to the Mayor's office.
On being told that Mayor Villaraigosa wasn't in, they made sure their presence, as one
aide affirmed, "was noted."
A bystander was escorted from the council chambers when he predicted a
workers' uprising if the farm is demolished.
Then the mass of farmers and supporters briefly returned to council chambers before
moving on, again with a group remaining, to a well-coordinated press
conference on City Hall's south lawn. There, they made their demands
- That the farmers refused the Mayor's recommendation that they find private
donations to buy the 14-acre property from developer Ralph Horowitz at market
price, when the City had been sold it to him for only M. Instead
they demanded that the City invoke eminent domain to reclaim the property and
turn it over to the farmers.
- That the Mayor hold a city-wide town hall meeting to explain how the
transfer to Horowitz happened and to put forward a comprehensive plan for the
greening of LA
- That the Mayor intervene to halt intensified ticketing of cars parked
adjacent to the farm
Meanwhile, in council chambers, by noon the farm supporters finally had their
say. Groups as diverse as Food Not Bombs and USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development students
stood up for the farmers. One mother testified that she had fed her young
children from the food on the farm and, because of that, avoided welfare until she got on her
feet. Another speaker pointed to the City's potential embarrassment if
the South Central Farm is shut down as the American Community Gardening
Association plans its August conference for Los Angeles. A high school
science teacher berated the council for racism and classism in their treatment
of the farmers, declared that shutting down the farm would be the first shot in
a race and class war, and asked, "Do you expect these families to docilely
take their children to McDonald's and watch television" if the farm is shut
As the speaking group left the chambers to join their sisters and brothers on the lawn,
the farm supporters put the Council on notice with a chant that "Hey, hey,
ho, ho, these backroom deals have got to go!" Police urged them on their way out.
The farmers left quickly after the press conference, presumably back to
waiting employers after a half day's absence. But a small group of
supporters remained, singing and dancing on the lawn.
In spite of my years of education, I remain monolingual. If I spoke
Spanish, I would have asked the farmers if any of them had learned their quiet resolve in
Mexico trying to save their land after NAFTA or during the Mayan uprising for land in Guatemala. It was two months
ago that the farmers announced the imminent demolition of the farm. Today,
the farm is still here, and Los Angeles City Council took note.